Archive for November, 2011

I made a shirt



Although “made” might be overstating it. As might “shirt.”

Imagine a shir that looks like this,  except that it's cuteThis pattern is Simplicity 2181 “Misses Knit Tops.”  It is a fairly simple pattern in that it is only 4 pieces — front, back, and two “overlays” sewn to the sides and twisted across the front. It is difficult because it requires knit fabric (I just realized that any shirt without buttons or a zipper needs to be stretchy enough to pull on). Knits stretch when you sew them, the pins slip out, and they don’t like to crease neatly when pressed. For these reason knits suck and I don’t know why I bother, except I like wearing them and I’m hoping that my skills will improve with time.

The fabric is a “watercolor stripe” knit I got for $4.99 on sale at Denver Fabrics.  It caught my eye because of that 2011-is-that-an-animal-print styling, plus these are my favorite colors to wear.

The pattern caught my eye because Simplicity Patterns were on sale for $1 each.  If you buy patterns but don’t know this yet, take heed: Pattern pricing (actually everything to do with sewing pricing) is a strange-ass racket. They are marked for sale at $9.99-$17.99 or so. They are always sold retail for 40% (which exempts them from most major retailer coupons “for full price items only.”) Then they randomly (?) go on ridiculous discounts like $1 each. If you’re interested in sewing, spend some time browsing the pattern sites (or better yet, a good sewing site like patternreview.com) and start keeping a list of patterns you’re interested in.  You’ll have it handy as soon as you see a “1$ sale” at the fabric store, which is good because everyone will be hogging the Simplicity books.  And the last thing any sew-ist needs is more wasted time in the fabric store.

I’ve known for a couple of years now that ruched and gathered tops work best for me. I was happy to see that my style instincts were right on track, there. My technique, unfortunately, is not. The neckline is wonky because I sewed the facing in along the V-neck — I can’t press it flat, so the lining poofs out like some extra-ruffled collar action. Like some kind of  Dickey . Seriously my husband trying to be nice said “oh is that another design detail?” NO IT’S NOT, Good Husband, it is just that  I’m not finished putting the shirt on! Come over here and give me a hand, will you.  I think I need to be more careful stitching the lining along the exact same V as the shirt front. Also I need to follow directions about “clipping curves,” and stuff like that, which always seems “extra” but you know it’s probably in the directions for a reason.

Speaking of directions, the sleeve is messed up there because I accidentally sewed things backwards and had to cut it apart. You can see where a leftover piece of backwards-stuff is still attached.  There is no good reason why I sew stuff backwards on accident; I sit there telling myself “Read the directions, Robin! DONT MESS UP!” and then next thing I know, Good Husband is trying to put the shirt on me saying “I really don’t think this can work, like it is mathmatically impossible for it to go on over your head.”  OKAY FINE I will fix it.  Everyone standing around waiting for the “look at my new shirt” demonstration, please retire and await the next announcement.

Next step: Carefully rip the seam out of the mistakie-place, avoid damaging the shirt, figure out to do with the arm holes. See if I can iron it into something presentable.

Then get ready to wear that baby out on the town. For real.

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Simplicity 4927

Good thing we have that "no toys in the living room" rule

Attempt 1: Purple floral with blue ribbon pocket trim.

Ok so. Until this summer, my last experience with sewing started and stopped in 1985, when I sewed two seersucker pillows shaped like the letters “K” and “M” (a birthday present for my sister) in junior high Home Ec.  I bought a new sewing machine without much of a clue: I was surprised  to see my hands remembered the “knob turn/back stitch/ flip up the presser foot” move at the end of a line of stitching. Have you noticed that Diane Keaton does this in Godfather II? Bam! Sewed ya, Corleone! Very satisfying.
But I didn’t find  sewing  as easy as, say, riding a bike. There’s the “threading” thing and what I’d call the “steering” thing to get the stitches where you need them to go.  Singer does have a pretty good instruction book and there’s plenty of help available online. Still, the bobbin vexed me for days. Days of desperately adjusting every tension setting possible, including taking the machine apart. DAMN BOBBIN.  I finally realized I had to slide the bobbin thread under that tight little place on the bobbin case, OOPS. Time to start sewing. Lesson learned: To save time, ask questions!  Call your mother as early as possible in the learning process. Preferably before you turn forty, although it’s never too late.
I knew my first dresses needed to be EASY PATTERNS and that, if they were going to be cute, I had to use CUTE FABRIC. These are my oft-repeated sewing mantras (the third relates to TECHNIQUE, a whole nother story). So to make my daughter a dress I first turned to Simplicity 4927, a simple two-piece pattern (front and back — really two back pieces and also two facing pieces).  No zipper. Sleeves optional. Attempt 1 was a fairly cute purple shift with blue ribbon on the pockets (too wide in the shoulders — Little Missy wears a 4T-5T in off-the-rack but a Pattern Size 3 is too big for her).  She likes the lavendar color, but was a little disappointed that the skirt was not more TWIRLY. This is a girl who knows what she wants and it is not this. If anyone wants a size 4-5T lavender shift dress with sloppy pocket stitching (Attempt 1, above), let me know.

Attempt 2

So for Attempt 2, I tried to make the skirt twirly by clipping it and inserting triangular panels to make it “full.” This mostly worked, although the panels fell into pleats which surprised me. I bought some blue ruffled trim, which was adorable on the hem. But it turned out not to be long enough. You know how 2-pi*R is the circumference of a circle? This means the hem of a full skirt is like SIX times the length! Six! So oops I ran out of trim for the hem. I had to cut the skirt to fit, which is why there is blue vertical trim (bias tape) and a bow. Lesson learned: Measure, duh.
Me hold still?

Attempt 3

Since that worked pretty well, I went for Attempt 3. This used a cute blue and pink paisley calico. I tried to make the skirt Yet-Twirlier by cutting each panel (the front and two backs) into a wider arc below the waist. This worked in two dimensions — it did look fuller — but when she wore it, it just hung like a potato sack. It also “needed something,” so I added a flounce.  This stiffened the hem so that it hangs a little more full-ly, and also has the added benefit of making the dress “Curly” in addition to “Twirly.” Success:
When will you sew something FOR ME?

To make a flounce, cut out a "spiral" of fabric. Then it ruffles when you stretch it straight.

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Back to the Beginning


i don’t know if you’ve been paying attention but i recently had a baby. as a result i spend a lot of time staring at my son’s face and reflecting on things like how my life up to now came to be, where i’m going now, and other things. for instance, how is it that when i open my closet, there are only *3* shirts in there? and also that i hate every single one of those stinking shirts? how did i get here?

another thing i noticed during one of these baby-staring sessions is that while most newborns are supposed to look like winston churchill, mine looks a lot like wallace shawn.

as you know, wallace shawn is famous for playing vizzini in the princess bride. if you were alive in the 80s you know what i’m talking about:

"all you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

vizzini was known to tell inigo and andre the giant that whenever you get stuck on something, you should always go back to the beginning. when you find yourself lost, go back to the beginning. i thought he had a good point. so last night i spent some time rereading my old posts. why did we start this blog? what was my objective? what was my attitude? did i look good? am i where i wanted to be when this all started?

2 years ago, i was wearing nothing but hoodies. that was my uniform. it was easy breezy and comfortable. why can’t i have that again? i can’t even remember why i thought i needed to get rid of hoodie aki. probably because the hoodies i did have were old tattered and pilled. so what if i bought *nice* hoodies? i can haz that back again, right? so that’s another homework assignment for me. get some nice hoodies.

(i have a vague recollection that when we started i had an earnest desire to make this into a good fashion blog. now i feel like we are the fashion equivalent of the onion… people like to laugh though, right?)

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Royal blue polyester "highly suitable for band uniforms"

Things I could not have imagined, only a few short years ago:

1. I am preoccupied about a process called “blogging with Android.” Stop and think about this.  Do we totally live in the future now or what? Is this Battlestar Galactica? Will next year we be “Frakking with Cylons?”

2. I am the mother of what appears to be a second-grader (further investigation is underway) and my pay has been cut by 3%.  Yes, that 3% that was my clothing budget.  All I’ve bought to wear this year was two sweaters at Target.  I also bought a pair of pants for Aki, but those turned out to have an unspeakable problem with fit (rhymes with schwamel-toe).

3. I am sewing my own clothes. Gentle reader, I shit you not.

I blame the rain this summer: Too much time indoors trying to glue-gun a baby doll dress out of some quilt scraps.  I must have got stir-crazy enough that a $85 Singer “Simple” 23-stitch suddenly looked like the greatest invention in the history of civilization.  Turned out the doll dresses were kind of cute. This led my four-year-old daughter to become unbearably envious and led me, out of an inflated sense of competence, to make her a dress for her birthday. The birthday dress actually turned out pretty shitastically bad by all measures. But, I used great fabric and she is adorable. So it passed.

Note: sports bra making this more "flat" that it should be. Really!
Exhibit A

Then the summer was over. And suddenly I couldn’t find a suitably chic, affordable, early-autum, warm-weather dress to wear to a destination wedding.  I found some adorable red cotton lawn (really lightweight wrinkly fabric) on sale. I found a “sheath” dress pattern. I had many trials and tribulations that I will describe in due time.  And somehow I managed to make a dress — or at least a reasonable-enough fascimile of a dress — to wear in public as long as I kept my arms at my sides (Exhibit A). Sometimes this sewing thing works.

"I still DONT UNDERSTAND why you cut the boob out of that dress." -- S.Schulz
Exhibit B

Other times, this sewing thing does not work.

And all you can do is laugh.

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so… now that the pants situation is under control, the eye of sauron turns to shirts. we’re operating on the assumption that my current body is the body i’m going to have for a while. i’m dressing the body i have. and right now? i still have the jiggly post-baby blobby jiggles. my goal is not to highlight this area. robin told me that for this body type, “flowy” shirts are good (i think she means baggy sacks). in addition, i have to remember my existing rules about the shirts i wear: cowl or wide crew necks to give my neck a little space but without exposing any cleave, sleeves that do not showcase my linebacker shoulders and big flabby upper arm. if that wasn’t hard enough i now have a new requirement: armpits need to breathe. i do not like fabric hugging my pits. lucky for me the stores are currently filled with 80s-esque wing sleeved shirts. unfortunately it also follows the 80s trend of being cropped. wow, so this is going to be a fun challenge. i need to find tops that will make me look like this:

incidentally, my son went as a bat this halloween. this look is of the moment.

so, off to the bon i went. on the rack, this INC shirt looked HUGE. in the picture, it looks ok. but in person, it really was huge. I needed a smaller size but since it was on clearance the L is all they had. poop.

this had good "flow" but it had a little too much of it, i fear

next up i wanted to try the “distract the eyes” technique. the frills DID cover up my giant tummy. however, since it’s november and i don’t need tank tops right now, this was a no. good to know for future reference though.

also, no one needs to see my shoulders

then i got distracted. this is my “oooh shiny!” shirt. when victims on the tv show “what not to wear” are given the rules to shop by and sent out on their own they often still try to get away with buying clothes from their old look that sent them there in the first place. this is my weakness. leopard. mmm. nothing wrong with them, but sleeveless tops are not what we were looking for today. but i had to try it out. clearance!

another INC shirt, unfortunately one size too small.

it was too tight and the old aki would have bought this anyway in the hopes of “one day, when i lose 5,000 pounds…” but i was strong. i looked down to remind myself that i am trying to hide, not highlight the tummy:

in the foreground is the boob shelf. below is the gut. sad. scary. but also kind of cute, no? no?

i am totally getting distracted here. looking for fall/winter shirts here, aki! this next item, my favorite neckline and the clearance status compelled me to try it on. even though it has horizontal stripes. in colors i don’t particularly like.

surprisingly not bad but not what i'm looking for this day.

OK. FOCUS. moved over to nordstrom in the point of view sales rack. ah, here’s a bat shirt!

it's the right size and color but the fit and fabric were meh for me. plus i could smuggle a couple of hobbits in the sleeveses.

by this point i am really really tired and need to go pick up my son from preschool. the last one was actually my favorite even though it is the weirdest looking on the hanger. what was working against it was the length, sadly. i would like to be able to raise my arms without exposing my stomach.

ta-da! i actually really liked this even with the webby wing attachment and its horizontal stripes. but it was a size too small.

so what am i learning here? i realized that i do like these baggy wings, even though you’d think that as a petite (i’m 3’8″) lady i should probably avoid clothes that only add volume to my body. what’s that about? this is something i need to explore further. i am going to keep on looking. wish me luck!

in the meantime, maybe this should be my uniform.

it meets all my requirements, doesn't it?

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it’s not that i was too busy to post anything. it’s that i wasn’t buying any clothes. i was pregnant and frankly i didn’t see the point in spending any money on temporary clothing. first i was growing. and then i would be shrinking. and *then* i was going to start buying new clothes. that was the plan. but when am i done shrinking? am i really shrinking? i just had my 6 week post-baby check-up and you know what? i am not shrinking. i am actually gaining. so is it realistic for me to keep wearing ratty old stinky clothes until one day i magically drop 15 pounds?

hello. which way to awesome assville?

then my blog partner robin gave me a wake up call. i’d been stubbornly wearing the one pair of pants that still fit me, which was my 1st trimester maternity jeans. nothing else fit. i wasn’t going to buy anything new. i wasn’t going to fit into my pre-pregnancy pants. so i kept wearing the ONE jeans over and over again. every. single. day. and one day i got a package in the mail: pants. robin had sent me pants. PUT ON SOME REAL CLOTHES, it said. DRESS THE BODY YOU HAVE, it screamed. STOP PRETENDING, it punched me in the face. so i plodded on over to target to return the camel-toe yoga pants in exchange for a pair of jeans on clearance for $1.56. then i wore the $1.56 pants every day. every. single. day. then one day again, robin said to me “don’t you think you deserve to wear pants that aren’t $1.56?”


yes. yes, i do. thank you again, robin. so last week i treated myself to a pair of nice designer jeans. second hand at goodwill. i’m still rebelling a little because i think i *will* lost some weight and refuse to pay retail to dress my temporary body. but my butt looks good. my butt thanks you. my butt salutes you, robin.


up next: shirts

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